Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Girl She Used To Be by David Cristofano

Melody McCarthy and her family were forced to enter the Witness Protection Program when she was 6 years old after accidentally walking in on a mafia murder. She spent the next 20 years of her life, running from town to town, identity to identity, constantly looking over her shoulder as she tries to live her life to the fullest she can. That is until the day a man walks up to her and calls her by the name she left behind years ago, and she is forced to face her past.

I can't say too much about this without giving anything away. The writing at the beginning and the end was wonderful, bordering on beautiful and poetic, but the story in between really bored me. Melody annoyed the hell out of me and I just didn't really care what happened to her, but that wonderful writing in the beginning kept me reading just in case it came back.

2 stars

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Plantation by Chris Kuzneski

The first to disappear is a ski instructor, out for a morning jog in the secluded mountains of Colorado. Hours later, a pregnant woman is abducted from a crowded hospital and smuggled past security without a hitch. Two places, two incidents, a single motive. And so it begins. . . . One by one, in cities across America, people of all ages are being taken from their homes, their cars, their lives. But these aren't random kidnappings. They're crimes of passion, planned and researched several months in advance, then executed with a singular objective in mind. Revenge. Ariane Walker is one of the victims, dragged from her apartment with no obvious signs of a struggle. The cops said there is little they can do for her. There isn't enough evidence to go on. Not enough time has passed. But that isn't good enough for Jonathon Payne. He loves Ariane and isn't about to sit around while her trail runs cold. Using the skills that they learned in the MANIACs, a special branch of the U.S. military, Payne and his best friend, David Jones, give chase, trekking to New Orleans on little more than a whim, hoping that Payne's gut instinct pays off. It does. With the help of several locals, the duo slowly begin to uncover the mystery of Walker's abduction and the shocking truth behind Louisiana's best-kept secret: THE PLANTATION.

Wow, that makes it sound so promising. I have been dragging though this book for a week now. I finally just skimmed the last 50 pages so I could finish it. The interaction between Payne and Jones seemed a lot like a Scooby Doo episode, if you are paying attention, everything is pretty much given away half way through the book and like me you will just want it to end., and quickly.

1 star

Sunday, September 18, 2011

A Stolen Life by Jaycee Dugard

The story of the abduction of Jaycee Dugard at the age of 11 by a sex offender and his wife, her life in captivity, and her rescue 18 years later. I work for the prosecutor's office and have been there 9 years and have seen things most people wouldn't even believe and have become quite desensitized. I had to actually stop reading this twice because it was too much for me. Incredibly graphic and disturbing. It made me sick at times. I can't imagine going through that myself. While I appreciate her courage to tell her story, I think she wrote this a little too soon. The writing jumps all over the place, sometimes I didn't know what she was talking about and had to reread the same paragraph over and over and sometimes I still didn't know what she was talking about. I hate to rate this low, because what she went through is completely horrifying, but I think if she would have let herself heal a little more before she took to putting her story out there, it would have been easier to read and the flow of the narrative would have been better. I have gone through therapy myself, for different reasons, and one of the things they had me do was write a letter to everyone I was upset with, but you never send it; when you are finished you burn it. It provides a lot of closure and helps you move past things you thought you would never have been able to move past. So while I understand this is part of the healing process, I still think it was too soon to put it out there.

2 stars

Monday, September 12, 2011

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

After witnessing his grandfather's murder, Jacob is given a message from the dying man that leads Jacob and his father to the island where his grandfather spent most of his childhood after fleeing the Nazis. At Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, everyone has their own strange talent; one person can levitate, one is invisible, and so on. Jacob had heard these stories as a child and saw his grandfather's pictures but never believed any of it was real. That is until he finds the house on the island and discovers a secret world there that he play a key role in preserving.

I didn't think this book was ever going to end. The story was boring, the characters were boring, the pictures scattered throughout were about the only amusing thing in the whole book. It was just ridiculous all the way around and I wish I wouldn't have wasted my time reading it.

1 star

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Pollock

From the acclaimed author of Knockemstiff —called “powerful, remarkable, exceptional” by the Los Angeles Times —comes a dark and riveting vision of America that delivers literary excitement in the highest degree. In The Devil All the Time , Donald Ray Pollock has written a novel that marries the twisted intensity of Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers with the religious and Gothic over­tones of Flannery O’Connor at her most haunting. Set in rural southern Ohio and West Virginia, The Devil All the Time follows a cast of compelling and bizarre characters from the end of World War II to the 1960s. There’s Willard Russell, tormented veteran of the carnage in the South Pacific, who can’t save his beautiful wife, Charlotte, from an agonizing death by cancer no matter how much sacrifi­cial blood he pours on his “prayer log.” There’s Carl and Sandy Henderson, a husband-and-wife team of serial kill­ers, who troll America’s highways searching for suitable models to photograph and exterminate. There’s the spider-handling preacher Roy and his crippled virtuoso-guitar-playing sidekick, Theodore, running from the law. And caught in the middle of all this is Arvin Eugene Russell, Willard and Charlotte’s orphaned son, who grows up to be a good but also violent man in his own right. Donald Ray Pollock braids his plot lines into a taut narrative that will leave readers astonished and deeply moved. With his first novel, he proves himself a master storyteller in the grittiest and most uncompromising American grain.

Well I wasn't deeply moved and didn't think it was all that taut. The novel is very noir/pulp fiction, and reminded me a little of Yellow Medicine by Anthony Neil Smith, just without the edge. It was a fast read and tied up into a neat little bow at the end, but it was a little too neat for my taste. If I was to recommend this or Yellow Medicine for this type of book, Medicine would still win.

3 stars

Dismembered by Susan D. Mustafa and Sue Israel

The shocking true story of serial killer Sean Gillis, a nerdy, nonthreatening, Star Trek fan from Baton Rouge, who killed over 9 women. He chose his victim's carefully: made sure they were of slight stature so he could control them, after his first kill went for prostitutes, drug addicts and alcoholics, women who he felt wouldn't be missed. After he killed them by putting a zip tie around their necks after getting them in his car with the promise of money for sex, he went to work on them. Cutting of legs, heads, etc and having sex with the body parts, before he disposed of them and went on with his life. When finally caught, he would tell the police a story that shocked the most seasoned veteran, saying he was "pure evil", the whole time with a smile on his face.

Quick fast read. Wasn't that disturbing to me, but I can see where it would bother people, it gets pretty graphic. This guy was one sick puppy. The writing at the beginning made me feel like I was reading a high school students paper, but it got much better about halfway through and was much easier to read.

3 stars

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Nine Lives: Death and Life in New Orleans by Dan Baum

Nine Lives is a multi-voiced biography of the fascinating city of New Orleans told through the voices of nine unforgettable people, from different walks of life, bracketed by two epic storms: Hurricane Betsy, which hit in the 1960's and changed the city, and Hurricane Katrina, which nearly destroyed it.

A quick run down of the characters:

Ronald Lewis: a black man that lives in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans, where he was born and raised, that doesn't want to see his ward disappear due to the storms, the kids taking to the streets to live lives he never even imagined when he was their age, and the politicians who want the ward to disappear.

John Guidos: a white man who loses his family's business due to bad investments and continually struggles with his sexuality and gender while try to live a "normal life" with his wife and children.

Anthony Lewis: a black man from California who always tried to get back to the New Orleans he visited as a child, just to get there and see it destroyed.

Joyce Montana: a black woman who is the wife of the famous Tootie Montana, a man who lead the change of the Mardi Gras Indians from fighting every year, to a more peaceful resolution of seeing who could have the best Indian costume.

Frank Minyard: a white doctor, prone to bouts of depression, who sees change is needed in 1960's New Orleans, and goes after it by running for city coroner. He survives both hurricanes to help the city get back on it's feet.

Billy Grace: the current Rex when Katrina hits, Billy tries to get his rich friends to help rebuild the city but it seems everyone likes to profess their love for the city but don't want to touch their wallets.

Belinda Carr: a black woman who has dreamed of a Walton life with a white picket fence since she was a young girl, and never gives up the dream that she will eventually get there no matter what life hands her.

Wilbert Rawlins Jr.: a high school band teacher, he takes his job seriously and changes the lives of every student he comes across, no matter how down and out they are or how rough a life they are living.

Tim Bruneau: a white man who becomes a New Orleans police officer after the major change in the way the department is run, he takes his job in this city seriously, until Katrina hits and changes everything he ever thought and believed to be true.

This is by far the best book I have read in the past 5 years. Although nonfiction, it reads like a novel. Usually in a book like this there are 1 or 2 people I don't really care about and have to force myself to read their sections but not the case in Nine Lives. I loved every one of people as if we were friends. I truly, honestly did not want this amazing book to end. Its fascinating and heartbreaking, at times making me laugh, shake my head in shock and fill with tears. New Orleans is a city that has been through hell, twice, and it's people have never lost their spirit or their love for their city. I think a big theme is race, but it isn't told on a way that says this way is right and that way is wrong. I can't even give this book justice in a review. I just recommend everyone to read it and see if you don't fall in love with The Big Easy and it's amazing and fascinating cast of characters.

5 stars

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